During my weekend blog reading, I came across a post on TechCrunch with the headline “David Hornick: Why Real Entrepreneurs Aren’t in it for the Money.” (part of the TechCrunch TV series). In the interview, David speaks about what motivates entrepreneurs. In the video he claims that real entrepreneurs aren’t in it for the money. He says (paraphrased) “Entrepreneurship, if it’s successful, then everybody gets rich — and it turns out that is true. That’s a beautiful byproduct of entrepreneurship but the people that you wanna work with that’s not their motivation.”
I call bullshit.
This is one of the things that VC’s say about successful entrepreneurs *after* they’ve been successful. “Oh, he’s trying to change the world — money was never a motivation.” I don’t believe it for a second. It’s easy to use Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), or Reed Hastings (Netflix) as poster boys for people who are trying to change the world. But don’t let anyone fool you — in the early days, these guys were partially motivated by money.
If you’re a VC or a serial entrepreneur, it’s easy to weave a tale about how you want to work with people who aren’t motivated by the money. That’s because you and your examples already have enough money to be financially independent. If you haven’t made it yet, money is — and always will be — a very important motivator for REAL entrepreneurs.
I’ve never shied away from the primary reason I started a company: I want to be financially independent. I’m not ashamed to say that I want to make a lot of money, and I want to help others (employees and shareholders) also make a bunch of money in the process. I chose to create a start-up in an industry that I thought would be lucrative, and I work everyday to try and maximize revenue and profitability. So this makes me not a “real” entrepreneur? Hogwash.
I grew up in a middle-class family in New York, with five brothers (yes, we were six boys total). We ate spaghetti way too often, and I always wore hand-me-downs. I worked jobs as I went to high-school and college, and I still have tens of thousands of dollars in loans to pay back. I understand what life can be like when money is tight, and I’ve been fortunate to see how money can enhance your life too. So yes: I want to be financially rich and have the ability to choose how I work for the rest of my life. Pardon me, but I think I’m a real entrepreneur.
The reality is that most entrepreneurs are HIGHLY motivated by money. Why? Because money buys independence, and most entrepreneurs are fiercely independent. From what I’ve seen, most “real” entrepreneurs are passionately motivated to work for themselves. They realize that financial independence gives them the ability to choose what they do for work, when they work, and how they work. Many of my colleagues have shared the same vision with me — they never want to sit in a cubicle again.
That’s not to say that I’m not very passionate about the business I’m building. Quite the contrary. Spend time talking to me about the strategy of how to attack the market, or my viewpoints on how to position our product to succeed and you’ll quickly hear that I’m motivated by the business. But I believe that ultimately the strategy and tactics will lead to a positive financial outcome that will change my work life — and personal life forever.
If you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re motivated by money, that’s ok. Embrace it. Tell people you’re in it to become financially independent for the rest of your life. Tell people you’re a real entrepreneur, motivated by financial success. Say it with me, just like Jerry McGuire…
“Show me the money!”